Key learnings on the Books on Prescription Scheme
Date: March 19, 2019
Author: Dr Hazel Dalton
In 2014, having seen the success of the Books on Prescription scheme in the UK (run by the Reading Agency) and armed with a grant from the State Libraries of NSW, Central West Libraries Head Librarian, Jan Richards set about trialling a Books on Prescription scheme. This Australian-first pilot would roll out in rural central and western NSW libraries. A conversation with the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health (CRRMH), led to a successful partnership to adapt the scheme for Australian readers and evaluate the pilot. Whilst the library grant was for the book collections and resources, the book selection process and evaluation was supported by the in-kind support of the CRRMH. The project was significant and was supported by numerous staff, in particular Dr Scott Fitzpatrick.
The CRRMH put together a rigorous book selection protocol, and delivered an evidence-based collection of CBT-based books. The selection covers a range of common mental health conditions, and has been independently clinically reviewed. The books are also suitable for an Australian audience.
The library and the CRRMH worked together to develop a suite of resources to support the scheme (https://booksonprescription.com.au/), including resources for users, health professionals and libraries. The grant enabled the purchase of core book collections which are now available in public libraries across Central and Far Western NSW (within 14 library services). The scheme itself could be picked up and replicated in other libraries by using the freely available resources and purchasing the core book collection (some of which may be already held in existing collections).
Importantly, staff at the libraries who currently host the core book collections have received training from the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program to improve their mental health literacy and their ability and confidence to recommend books from the scheme and other mental health support services to library users and others.
Whilst the scheme achieved many of its objectives, challenges included funding constraints which impacted the inability to better engage with health professionals such as general practitioners and psychologists. This part of the scheme’s objectives have not yet been met but there is an opportunity for future development.
The Books on Prescription scheme provides Central and Western NSW with a free, evidence-based low-intensity mental health self-help program that can be accessed independently or with the support of a health professional.
To move beyond a pilot and into a viable low-intensity mental health self-help option, the scheme requires funding, marketing and education. It also requires partnerships with agencies currently engaging with health professionals such as the Primary Health Networks (PHNs), the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine and the Australian Psychological Society. This scheme ties in with the low-intensity steps of the stepped care model of mental health care provision that the Department of Health has mandated for PHNs to adopt.